Bus operators raising pay to attract drivers
Demand for drivers heats up as two new bus operators wage pay war
With Singapore opening up its public bus industry to two more new operators, the competition for drivers is growing.
To attract local bus drivers to join their fleet, the four bus operators have been engaging in a pay war over the past few months.
Last week, UK-based bus operator Go-Ahead, which will operate the Loyang bus routes from September, announced that it would be raising its minimum monthly starting salary for Singaporeans and PRs to $1,950.
This was an increase from the $1,865 that was announced in February.
It also matches SBS Transit's recent 15 per cent pay hike, which was announced last month.
In May, London-based Tower Transit, which has been operating the Bukit Batok bus routes, said that the starting basic pay of their bus captains would be $1,930.
As for SMRT, it announced in February that its basic salaries for bus captains would be "adjusted upwards to be at least on (a) par with the market". SMRT has not announced details of its new pay package yet and previous reports state that its bus captains have a basic salary of $1,625.
Mr Melvin Yong, executive secretary of the National Transport Workers' Union, told The New Paper that the new entrants have injected competition to the industry and managed to recruit a significant number of locals among their new hires.
As Singapore moves to the new bus contracting model, more bus captains and technical support staff are required to service the fast-expanding industry, Mr Yong said.
So how much does pay matter?
Transport researcher Park Byung Joon, who lectures at SIM University, thinks that the bus operators have realised that an attractive basic salary is important to Singaporeans.
NEW: (From left) Go-Ahead group CEO David Brown, MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC Zainal Sapari, National Transport Workers' Union executive secretary Melvin Yong and managing director of Go-Ahead Singapore Nigel Wood checking out a bus captain uniform at the official opening of the company's Loyang bus depot last month. ST FILE PHOTO
"The allowance and overtime pay means that the total salary of a bus captain is not too bad, but Singaporeans don't usually like the idea of this kind of pay structure," he said.
"Besides, when you apply for a bank loan, they will be looking at your basic salary."
Dr Park added that generous pay packages for the bus drivers have been part of several tenders for the new bus packages.
But Mr Yong, who is also a Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC, thinks that pay and benefits are not enough to attract locals to the job.
He called for more to be done to professionalise the industry, and noted that the Singapore Bus Academy, which was launched this year, would provide a more structured training regime for bus captains.
"Many Singaporeans could already have preset perceptions of the profession... Our bus captains are also highly trained and skilled," he said.
"It is not an easy job to operate a large vehicle with various advanced systems and provide quality service to our commuters at the same time."
Go-Ahead Singapore's managing director Nigel Wood, who started off as a bus driver in London 21 years ago, said he can relate to the aspirations of bus drivers.
"At Go-Ahead Singapore, our employee value proposition is holistic, encompassing a whole package comprising of a mix of pay-related as well as non-financial factors," he said.
"While designing the employment package, we placed a great emphasis on enhancing employee's welfare, especially on family and maternity benefits."
The attractive benefits package has managed to attract Singaporeans who have no prior experience in bus driving.
One of them is Mr Maxx Chan, 47, who used to sell IT accessories on a freelance basis.
Drawn by the pay and staff benefits, he signed up with Go-Ahead Singapore during its recruitment drive in March.
Mr Chan, who also has experience as an assistant cook and a casino supervisor, obtained his Class 4A licence after joining the operator.
The bachelor admitted that he had certain perceptions about the job initially.
But that changed after he went through the training sessions, which he completed in April.
"Initially, I heard from my friends who were bus captains that the job can be quite tough. My family were also surprised about my career switch.
"I was looking for a stable job when I saw the recruitment advertisement. It also helps that the (Loyang) depot is located near my home."
The allowance and overtime pay means that the total salary of a bus captain is not too bad, but Singaporeans don't usually like the idea of this kind of pay structure.
- Transport researcher Park Byung Joon on how locals might perceive a bus driver's pay.
What bus operators are offering drivers
Basic salary for Singaporeans and PRs: $1,950
- A $2,000 sign-on bonus for experienced captains
- A one-time $1,000 retention bonus
- A $430 annual allowance for health, learning, and leisure programmes
- Up to 6.5 months of paid maternity leave for female employees
- Two days of elder care leave a year for all employees
- Free bus and train rides
Basic salary for Singaporeans and PRs: $1,930
- Female drivers will get up to 6.5 months of paid maternity leave, while male drivers will get up to two weeks of paternity leave
- Drivers receive flexible benefit credits of up to $700 a year, which can cover health, educational, and childcare fees.
- Performance-based incentives will be given out and the company will sponsor Workforce Skills Qualifications courses
- Free travel on all buses and trains
Basic salary for Singaporeans and PRs: $1,950
- New bus captains will get a $3,000 sign-on bonus
- Gross monthly salary (including allowances and over-time pay) of up to $3,460 within their first year
- Free travel, health screening, flexible benefits
- Career progression to executive and managerial positions in operations, management and training
- Reliability incentive of up to $300 a month
- Flexi-benefits scheme with $500 in credit a year
Basic salary for Singaporeans and PRs: $1,625. In February, SMRT said it would raise its drivers' pay so that it is on a par with the rest of the market.
- Sign-on bonuses up to $3,000 for bus captains
- Bus captains with some years of service will get up to three days more annual leave
- In-house clinics in key depots that will conduct health and wellness education activities and help staff better manage chronic illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Flexible benefits scheme that can be used for portable medical insurance coverage for employees and their family, and other health- and fitness-related expenses